Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Beach at Panmure Island

A few shots from Panmure Island, when we stopped for lunch. 

Brudenell to Campbell's Cove

Trip Distance: 76.71 km
Time in the saddle: 5 hrs 18 min
Lori's new speed record: 44.1 kmh

(Lori writing)
PEI: friendly, definitely not flat. Friendly Manitoba has nothing on PEI. I've been touched by the kindness we've encountered. Here are a few moments just from today.

We were both itching to get back on the road, so we decided to leave Brudenell a day early. We stopped at the camp office to see if they would transfer our last night's reservation to another park. "We're not supposed to do that anymore. It's a new rule this year. But I'll just give you a refund." Kind.

Next I called the hostess of our next campground to see if we could come a day early. No problem. "And it's gonna be a hot one today, be careful out there. If you guys need to be picked up somewhere, just give me a call and we will come get you!" She has also offered to do a grocery run for us, as the nearest grocery store is 25 km away. And we can store our perishables in the camp office fridge. Kind.

First restaurant we found after leaving Brudenell was a golf course at Rollo Bay, 45 km into our ride. We were very hungry and tired. We ordered food: scallop platter that came with fries, coleslaw and a 10 oz glass of local beer and a chicken Caesar wrap. He offered to let us try the beer first. Bram and I liked different ones, so he said he'd split them in different glasses for us. Except that he filled up two glasses full. I said, "Hey that's more than 5 oz!" He said with a smile, "I know." he continued to chat with us, and the subject of wine came up. He asked what we liked and I told him that I've recently discovered Apothic. "Oh! I have to give you one that I make, just a minute." he went to his cellar, brought us a bottle of wine that he makes and distributes and tossed in a cork screw so that we could enjoy it at the end of our ride. Also made sure we had enough to eat, saying he had more fries if we wanted (we didn't, we were full). No charge for the extra beer or wine. Kind.

It was a long brutal ride today. My speed record is indicative of the hills we had to climb before racing down the other side. Twice we had to get off and push our bikes to the top of hills. But I have made peace with the hills. Before this trip, I wondered if I would hate hills more or the relentless winds of flatland Manitoba. I've decided I prefer the hills. Don't get me wrong, I would take a nice flat tailwind any day, but inevitably you have to turn around and fight the headwind. With hills, you can conquer them and feel victorious. And you always get an exhilarating break on the downhill.

We are now at our rest stop of Campbell's Cove Campground for a few days. No cell service and only a small wifi footprint. And Bram is making me peanut butter cup s'mores as I type this. :)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Crown Attorney's Office

I can already tell that I'm going to be doing a lot of editing when I get home. For one thing, there are a lot of fabulous photos to be made. For another, the apps on my iPad are fine for the basics but I'm sure a lot of the images I take will need more precise treatment.

Also, our posts will likely get much shorter when we are not actively traveling, partly from less to report, and partly from efforts to conserve battery power. As such, I will likely have a few queued photos to keep the blog lively!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Camping in Brudenell

Saturday was not a travel day, but I (Bram) spent some time riding for errands and photography:

Trip distance: 27.86 km
Time in saddle: 1:33:03
Average speed: 17.97 km/h

The temperature was perfect for sleeping Friday night to Saturday morning. The thermarests did their job, though I did miss having a proper pillow. After waking up, I made breakfast (instant muesli) **Lori coughs "add cold water and stir" grin** ***Bram coughs "AND open the package of dried raspberries and sprinkle*** and we puttered around the campsite. The closest grocery stores are in Montague, so after debating on what kinds of supplies to get, I saddled up and rode back to town.

I took it easy for the ride into town, stopping a few times for photo opportunities (I'll post some of those separately later). As with Wood Islands, the Confederation Trail leads to/from the local information centre and also runs by a harbour. The staff at the Montague info centre were not nearly as nice and helpful as the ones at Wood Islands.

Montague is very hilly- I was riding to the local Superstore when I came across a Sobeys sooner. Given the nature of the hill, I wasn't picky and stopped there for food. Dealing with perishables is a challenge for us, so I also snagged an insulated lunch bag and a bag of ice to try as a cooler. The melting ice gave me incentive to hustle back to camp, and I made really good time on the return trip. So far, our improvised refrigerator is holding up well.

(Lori writing now)
As much as I thought that I would just crash in my hammock all day, I actually ended up puttering around camp quite a bit. There really isn't a whole lot to do here, but I definitely needed to give my bum a break from the saddle. I'm surprised how well the rest of my body is holding up after two long rides in a row.

I usually love camp cooking, but access to fresh food is more of a challenge than anticipated. One of the reasons we chose PEI is because "everything is so close" but I think that mindset is really for the car-enabled. Protein is a particular problem, but I think Bram's cooler bag idea will serve us well for a couple of days at a time.

Tonight I cooked up all our meat over the fire, as it should keep better that way for the day tomorrow. By the way, chicken breast at $26/kg is robbery! No wonder people say lobster is cheap...because it actually is cheaper than chicken here! I will start looking at prices of seafood in the grocery stores for our protein.

As Marion and others have wished for us, so far the challenges are stretching us, but not breaking us. This is exactly what I needed.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Wood Islands to Brudenell Provincial Park

Trip Distance: 89.51 km
Time in the Saddle: 6 hrs 3 min
Average Speed: 14.77 kmh
(Lori writing)
I have to say that yesterday's ride had me pretty discouraged. Imagine riding your bike up and down Garbage Hill (in Winnipeg) for 4.5 hrs. With breaks, it took us 7 hrs to reach our destination. The most we ever trained on Garbage Hill was 30 min, once a week for the last month. To all the people who told me that PEI is not very hilly: either you have never cycled in PEI, or you have never been to Manitoba! So I'm sure that you can understand that the prospect of getting on our bikes to do it all over again this morning made me a little nervous. But up we got and away we went.

We started on the Confederation Trail, which is an old railway bed turned into a crushed gravel cycling path. It runs almost the entire island and many cyclists come from around the world to ride it. About 5 km in, we decided it was worse than the hills! The crushed gravel was just too loose to manage on loaded bikes. After some discussion, we finally decided on a roundabout route on smaller, local highways. This turned out to be awesome in so many ways: very little traffic, very pretty and paved. The hills were also much more manageable. The weather was perfect for a travel day: overcast, light breeze mostly at our backs, coolish, and no rain. All these things improved our moods significantly, thus giving us the energy to travel a total distance of nearly 90 km...a record breaking distance for us! Another record I broke today was my top speed at 40.8 kmh!

Here's our route:

We stopped in Panmure Island for a tasty lunch of chicken Caesar wrap and pizza.

We made it to our resting place at Brudenell Provincial Park with enough energy to set up camp...

...and then ride another 18 km round trip for dinner at Clamdigger's in Georgetown. Best seafood we've had so far: lightly breaded clams, scallops and haddock with fries as well as snowcrab with Caesar salad.

We're booked to camp here for 4 nights. It's beautiful, but the closest grocery store is a 2 hour round trip by bike. Not having a way to store perishables will make food prep challenging.

Yesterday's best quote was:
Lori: "Finally, a flat stretch!"
Bram: "Um. Yeah. We're going downhill, sweetie."
Lori: "Oh."
I wasn't sure whether to kill myself or him at that moment.

This has now turned into an ongoing joke when we are zooming down a hill of some distance, one of us usually says, "This is a nice flat stretch!" with huge smiles on our faces. I think it's probably funnier when you are getting your butt kicked on these hills!BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Friday, July 27, 2012

Charlottetown to Wood Islands ride

Trip Distance: 60.1 km
Saddle Time: 4hrs 43min

(Bram writing)
We got up bright and early for our first big leg. The breakfast part of the B&B was tasty again (and similar to the last one), and I quickly loaded up our bikes. When we left Charlottetown, they looked something like this:

By our first rest stop 10 kilometers later, they looked something like this:

Can you spot the differences?
We followed the Trans Canada highway on our way south east from Charlottetown. Our hill training paled in comparison with what we encountered on the road. To be fair, by any standard except Manitoba, the hills are not too bad. However, there are a lot of them. There are also fewer rest stops along the highway than we'd hoped. After 25 kilometers or so, we were starting to seriously look for food. Finally, we came across a source of sustenance!

It was pretty tasty, if only because of how hungry we were. We ended up with a couple of cheeseburgers:

After a total of 60 kilometers, we arrived at our motel. We were just about to take another break under a convenient tree when we realized the tree was on the motel's property. We didn't even bother to take most of the panniers off the bikes, we just wheeled them right into the room. Lori did some laundry and then it was off to dinner at a diner. More hamburgers ensued:

We're probably going to be taking a shorter route to Brudenell on the next leg, and including part of the Confederation Trail. We'll see how the day goes!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gahan House Brewery

As promised, a post devoted to our last dinner in Charlottetown before hitting the road with our bikes.
Gahan House is a microbrewery with a large selection of beer. We started with their sample platter of beer in 3 oz mugs. - 6 of their standard plus 2 specials. I don't remember all of them, but astonishingly, my favorite was a thick stout that tasted a bit like coffee. Bram's was their honey wheat.

Then onto the food. Typically I'm torn between a couple things on a menu, which is often solved by me ordering one and Bram ordering the other...luckily we share similar tastes and share our food well with each other! However, I was torn between about 5 things on this menu! This was solved by ordering 3 things and a promise to come back at the end of our trip. First up a flat bread pizza where you chose 3 of about a dozen available toppings and 1 of 3 kinds of sauces. Ours was bacon, chorizo and goat cheese with their house BBQ sauce. Though it sounds a little strange, it was possibly the most delicious pizza I've had!

Then came our main dishes. Fish and chips, with a beer batter made with their own beer of course. Bram absolutely loved their chips. Jon will smile when he reads that they only had malt vinegar on the table, and when I asked for white vinegar, it was brought in a little cup because apparently it is rarely requested.
And chicken, chorizo penne in a Cajun cream sauce. Perfect level of heat and flavour!

Bram has promised (threatened?) to motivate me to pedal around the island with the promise of returning here at the end of our trip as the reward!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Breakfast, Lunch, and.. Ukranian Dance?

Our Planned timetable is working very well. We started off with a delicious breakfast at our B&B: homemade fruit salad, fresh baked muffins, hard boiled eggs, plus yogurt, toast, jam, tea or coffee, and so on.

I finished assembling our bikes after breakfast, with some adorable "help" from our hostess' granddaughter. She was very good at holding tools and taking the caps off of tires. Putting the caps back on proved a little more challenging, but we persevered. Also, please note her awesome red "bike".
(I think this might be the first photo of me in our blog, unless there's one from Germany which slipped my mind). We went on a little walk in search of a few things that we couldn't pack, and stopped off for lunch on our way back. Some takeout sushi was our appetizer, which we ate while watching some sort of festival going on. There was a youth performing troupe singing about the construction of the railways, which segued into what looked like a Ukranian dance number.
Lunch was a lobster salad, avocado, and bacon sandwich. It sounded great and tasted okay.
After lunch, our "quick trip up the street to fill up the bike tires" turned into a 10k ride for a few more sundries. News flash: PEI has hills.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Arrival in Charlottetown, PEI

Like previous trips, the words in the following posts will mostly be by Lori and the pictures by Bram Travel day is always a little stressful. This one a bit more so for me due to me being anxious about transporting our expensive bikes via airplane. My worries were not completely unfounded. Though our bikes arrived along with the rest of our luggage, my box was a bit beat up with a couple of hole in it from the wheel. Once we got to the B & B, Bram immediately assembled it so that we could see if there was any damage. There doesn't seem to be, yay! Our first stay in Charlottetown is at a quaint Bed & Breakfast called Spillett House. The owner Barb so far seems to be just the right amount of friendly and not in your face. We will also be staying here at the end of our trip so we can store our suitcases and bike boxes here for the duration. We decided that a local seafood dinner was in order for our first night. The Water Prince Corner Shop comes highly recommended from several sources. We decided to share a traditional lobster dinner that came with a huge starter of mussels. Here's the cute restaurant.
... And the mussels.

...and the lobster.

We finished the evening with a short walk to the waterfront for ice cream from Cow's Creamery, supposedly the best ice cream in the world. They might not be lying. I think we will go back. Tomorrow. :)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Packing complete

Our bikes are (partially) disassembled and packed in boxes. Our panniers are (except for last minute stuff) filled and packed in suitcases, or otherwise ready for carry on. The last bits of laundry we need for the trip are being washed. We're pretty much ready to rock this trip!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The pre-trip pile o' stuff!

This trip really requires Bram and I to coordinate our best skills:
Lori - planning, organizing, details, online research, saving money, cooking
Bram - navigating, packing, physical strength/endurance, mechanics

Along the way will likely be stories of how our skills worked really well together... or were disastrous! The planning part of the trip lent itself well to my skills, and so I did a lot of the upfront work. However, Bram is now playing 3D Tetris with the piles o' stuff that we have to pack. I made the detailed list (which I will share at the end of this post for folks like Mary and Dave who are trying to plan their first bike tour with only a couple of months lead time!)... and Bram gathered it all up and decided how to pack it efficiently into 8 panniers.

I really should have gotten a shot of the pile o' stuff that made our living room a disaster for the last week, but here is the result of Bram's careful packing and organizing. He even was clever enough to organize the stuff into panniers by purpose (ie: all kitchen stuff in one pannier, all my clothes in another, etc.). Also for Mary & Dave and others who may be planning a bike tour one day, the panniers we decided on were: 2 pairs of Arkel Sakaroo 40L, 1 pair of smaller MEC everyday ones that I've had for years, 1 pair of Axiom Typhoon 32L (waterproof).

I've mostly been sitting around all week while Bram has figured that out. But then out came my organizing and OCD-like skills! I thought it would make at least one (me), and probably both of us crazy to keep trying to figure out which was the <insert purpose type> pannier. So I made waterproof labels and attached them to the straps of the appropriate pannier! (I know that Alison loves me just a little bit more right now.)

Here is the list o' stuff (which still changes tiny bits as I remember to add things). There are a few small luxuries, and most everything is either lightweight, collapsible, and/or multipurpose. Some things are not obvious luxuries, such as my travel pillow, which takes up a fair amount of space when technically I could just use a stuff sack filled with clothes or something (which is what Bram will use):

aquapac (waterproof sleeves for our iPad & iPhone)
bag balm
big spoon/spatula
bike repair book
bike tools
biking jacket
biking socks
bug spray
bungee cords
camera stuff
camp soap
collapsible water bucket
clothes pins
dish towel
Diva cup
duct tape
eye drops
first aid kit
flip flops
garbage bags
guy lines
hammock & rope
iphone & speakers
laundry soap
lip balm
lock and cables
long sleeved shirt
oven mitt
packing tape
paper towels
protein bars
folding grill/rack
rain gear
sharp knife
shower kit (shampoo, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, lotion, razor, deodorant, clippers, tweezers)
sleeping bags
sleeping pills
solar chargers
stove & fuel
swiss army knife
tensor bandage
tent, fly, tent poles, tent pegs
thermal mugs
tin foil
toilet paper
travel pillow
warm socks
wine flask
ziplock bags
zip ties

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A month in Prince Edward Island

We leave in about a week, so this is actually a pre-trip post in anticipation of our departure.

We've been planning this trip for about 4 years. The idea was born a long, leisurely ride around Winnipeg on a beautiful spring day. We were on the last leg of our ride home when I turned to Bram and said, "I could do this all day!" (meaning riding my bike). It didn't feel like the dreaded exercise chore, yet it was active living. He replied, "Yeah? I've always wanted to do a long distance bike trip." Hmm... I let that germinate for a while, and then decided that a bike tour would be the perfect start to my one year leave of absence that I was planning. When other people take a sabbatical, they do things like go to Africa and build a church, or go back to school and take another degree. Those kinds of things aren't the ways I need to stretch and grow. But taking an adventurous trip that involves training and conditioning my body... that's exactly the kind of out-of-my-comfort-zone growing I need to do !

You can't imagine the planning and details that go into a trip like this. We are doing it fully self supported (ie: taking everything we own on our backs and bikes, including camping gear), so we've been collecting light-weight gear and bike stuff for 4 years... and of course training. We took two practice camping trips from Beausejour to the Whiteshell, a 120km round trip, to test ourselves and our gear. We had to decide where to go, narrow down the area to something that was realistic given our ability, and plan a route in a place neither of us had been to. Plan a route, book flights and 11 different accommodations over 29 days, figure out how to get all our stuff and bikes there, practice packing and bike maintenance, and try not to kill each other in the process!

Before we start on the actual trip, let me first talk about my bike that I decided to splurge on to make this trip a little more pleasurable for me. The task of choosing my bike really deserves a post on its own. Those of you who aren't bike geeks may want to skip this part, as it might be a bit boring for you. Or... if you've never bought a bike from a bike shop before, you may not know the knowledge and effort that it takes to make the purchase... so maybe you do want to read on to get a little info and insight. It's not like walking into Canadian Tire, looking over the bikes, and taking the box home that same day. Not like that at all. Don't be overwhelmed with all you have to know... I know wayyyy more now than I did 5 years ago when I bought my first "real" bike. And I still consider myself a bit of a newbie.

First, is picking the right bike shop for you. I narrowed down to 2 choices: Olympia Cycle & Ski on Portage Avenue and Natural Cycleworks in the Exchange District. Olympia is my go-to bike shop for most everything, because so far they are the only bike shop that I have found in Winnipeg that has staff who are very knowledgeable about bike touring. Other bike shops mostly have staff who are into racing or mountain biking--which is important if that's the kind of biking you want to do--but touring is its own specialty.

Natural Cycleworks is a community based cooperative, with ethical business practices that custom builds bikes from new, used and recycled parts to provide a balance of function and affordability. They were very nice when I went down there, and spent a lot of time putting me at ease with my lack of knowledge. I would highly recommend them as a bike shop, but in the end I chose Olympia because I didn't think I was up to the task of making all the decisions necessary for a custom-built bike.

At Olympia, Al, a retired school teacher, who has done several tours himself including one in PEI, was very gentle and patient with me in choosing my bike. After doing some research online, I went in with an idea of what I wanted and he confirmed my initial research: to test ride both the Surly Long Haul Trucker and a Surly Cross Check. The first is specifically designed for touring, which means that it has a little longer wheel base, lots of attachment points to mount racks, bottles, bags and spare parts, and is built more for comfort than speed. The Cross Check is a multi-purpose bike, but can easily be used for touring. I tried the Cross Check and instantly knew that it was too cramped for me. I was very hopeful about the LHT because of all the reviews and recommendations, but honestly I couldn't get half a block on it because it had those drop handlebars on them... you know, the ones that look like an old 10-speed with the half circles at the end. But me and Al persisted. He set the bike up on an indoor trainer for me so I wouldn't be scared about falling over. Four hours of adjusting, fiddling, and finally a brave test ride around the block, was all it took for me to put a deposit on my new bike. Plus, it was a pretty colour :)

The thing about buying a bike at a bike shop is that most bikes need a little customizing to make them the way you want them to be. You don't have to settle on anything just because that's how it comes out of the box. Pretty much everything can be switched out for something else... often the cost is the same, or a fraction more because you get credit for the original part. For me, it was all about those handlebars. Al (and many others) thought I just needed to get used to the drop-style handlebars, but I really knew myself better and had already decided that I would want a set of butterfly trekking bars that look like this.

Al had heard of them, but the shop has never carried them, so I had to source them elsewhere. They are quite popular in Europe, but not as much in North America. I managed to find the only one in Manitoba, and took it back to Olympia so that I could try the bike with the new bars. Now, you think that would be an easy thing. It's not. The brake levers and gear shifters don't work with this size of handlebar, so all I could do was once again try the bike on the trainer with the old bars hanging off the side because none of the components were functional with the new handlebars. Then I had to choose new brake levers and gear shifters, trying different ones that were put on temporarily so I could see how they feel. Once I was happy with the new handlebars and components, the shop had to make the permanent switch so that I could finally take it for a test ride outside.

A fair amount of time, research, energy and a bit of money had already been invested in a bike that I hadn't yet had a real ride on. It was a bit of a leap of faith. But oh, was it sweet! The ride was so smooth, and I was so happy. This whole process of buying a bike took about 3 weeks, not counting the research beforehand. Then the fun part of accessorizing it, with things like a new colour-coordinated bell and handlebar tape!

Here's my beauty. I call her Zephyr.